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Residence hall name, scholarship program to honor Vernon Jordan ’57

New residence hall named for Vernon Jordan
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Vernon Jordan waves to the commencement crowd
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A residence hall that opened last fall for first-year students is being named for DePauw alumnus and civil rights leader Vernon E. Jordan Jr. ’57, DePauw University announced today.

The university’s Board of Trustees voted to name the hall to honor Jordan, who died March 1 at age 85. As the only African American in his DePauw class and one of only five blacks on campus at the time, he overcame obstacles to enjoy a lifetime of achievements as a civil rights leader, prominent lawyer and trusted adviser to a succession of U.S. presidents. 

In addition, the board created the Vernon E. Jordan Jr. Scholarship for Public Service and Community Leadership, which will be awarded to young people who wish to follow in Jordan’s footsteps and become leaders in public interest work. The Corning Inc. Foundation donated $500,000 as seed money, and fundraising will continue at an October gala celebrating the inauguration of DePauw President Lori S. White.

The Jordan residence hall, which was completed in August 2020, stands at the corner of Olive and Locust streets and provides 152 student beds, most of them in double rooms. The first floor of the four-story, 60,400-square-foot building features community-living space – the entry, a lounge, a kitchen and the like – and the top three floors contain students’ rooms. The project cost $23.4 million.

“Vernon Jordan’s remarkable career embodies the best of DePauw and personifies DePauw’s mission to prepare leaders the world needs,” White said. “Our entire community felt it important to recognize Vernon in significant ways that would ensure his incredible legacy of public service endures at DePauw and is a source of inspiration for generations of DePauw students.

“Both the naming of the residence hall and the establishment of the scholarship program are DePauw's way of honoring Vernon’s life and demonstrates what our university aspires to be: a place where people and service in support of social justice and equity matter.”

White noted that the formative experience that Jordan often cited had occurred in his residence hall, making it all the more appropriate that a residence hall be named after him. In his first year at DePauw, he and his two roommates in Longden Hall – white Midwestern boys – “existed” together for about two weeks until one night when, upon his returned to their room, one of his roommates told him, “We've been talking. You snore. You fall asleep at your desk when you're studying. Your family sends you cookies. ... You're just like us.”

After that, he said, “we stopped existing together and started living together.” 

After graduating from DePauw, Jordan earned a law degree from the Howard University School of Law. His first job was at a law firm that won a lawsuit on behalf of two black students who sought to be admitted to the University of Georgia. A year later, he became Georgia field director for the NAACP, organizing voter-registration drives and boycotts of businesses that refused to hire African Americans. He went on to become director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council; executive director of the United Negro College Fund; and president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League before going into a law practice.

The scholarship program will enable its recipients – students who demonstrate community involvement and leadership potential – to develop the skills and experience to solve critical challenges on a neighborhood-to-global scale and to embrace and succeed in public service. These Vernon E. Jordan Scholars will participate in service-learning, off-campus study, internships, on-campus speakers and programs through DePauw’s Hartman Center for Civic Education and the Prindle Institute for Ethics.

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